“Iran now faces a unified world community” in opposition to its uranium enrichment program said President Barack Obama on Wednesday. International sanctions are putting “enormous economic pressure” on the Islamic nation while its regional standing is “diminished.”
The president made his statements in an interview with Time magazine. “When I came into office, what we had was a situation in which the world was divided, Iran was unified, it was on the move in the region,” he said. He cited his administration’s “effective diplomacy” in convincing China and Russia, which had previously balked at attempts to isolate Iran, to support sanctions.
Chinese companies are known to have violated United Nations sanctions at least since October of last year however while India aimed to work “creatively” around the punitive measures, fearful of upending ties with Iran which it regards as an ally in keeping Pakistan out of Afghanistan and countering Chinese influence in Central Asia. Neither has signaled a willingness to join an oil embargo which European nations, Japan and the United States are planning to enforce.
Russia did suspend a planned sale of surface to air missiles to Iran and banned trade in military hardware with the Islamic republic.
The most recent unilateral American sanction against Iran targets its central bank, the main conduit for oil revenues. Financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank could be subject to fines.
The government in Tehran relies on oil sales for some 85 percent of its income. China and India are among Iran’s main buyers. They take a 16 and 13 percent share respectively. European Union nations, which are expected to enact a boycott this month, buy roughly 15 percent of Iran’s oil.
In response to international pressure, Iran has threatened to block access to the Persian Gulf. The Iranian navy staged exercises in the narrow Strait of Hormuz this month to demonstrate its ability to close the waterway through which passes 40 percent of the world’s seaborn oil transports.
President Obama’s Republican challengers for the presidency have advocated more forceful action against the regime. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich told CNN in December that “Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon. All the world can decide is whether they help us peacefully stop it or they force us to use violence,” he warned, “but Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon.”
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is deemed likeliest to be nominated by the opposition party to run against the president in November, declared boldly during a televised debate in November that, “If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If we elect Mitt Romney, they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
The president admitted that there isn’t a guarantee that sanctions will change Iran’s behavior. “Which is why I have repeatedly said we don’t take any options off the table in preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon.”
But what I can confidently say, based on discussions that I’ve had across this government and with governments around the world, is that of all the various difficult options available to us we’ve taken the one that is most likely to accomplish our goal and one that is most consistent with America’s security interest.
He also reiterated that there is still “a diplomatic path where they forego nuclear weapons, abide by international rules and can have peaceful nuclear power as other countries do” but there seems little reason to suppose that, after the Iranians rejected several overtures on the part of Western powers, this is the path they’ll chose to walk.